Longtime refugee fights ‘security risk’ label

Posted by admin on Jul 14th, 2008

Mary Frances Hill. Vancouver Sun. Monday, July 14, 2008

To his neighbours, “Mori” Momenzadeh Tameh is a business owner, a volunteer and a longtime Vancouverite. To the Canadian government, he could be a threat to national security. After 14 years of living and working in the city as a convention refugee, Tameh brings his fight for permanent residency to the Federal Court of Canada on Wednesday. He’s locked in a battle to become a permanent resident of Canada – a status denied him due to what Canadian immigration authorities contend is an affiliation with the  terrorist group Mujahedin-El-Klaq.

“In Iran, I would almost expect to be tortured,” Tameh said, referring to his imprisonment and torture in prison in Iran in the early 1980s.

“But in Canada, I’ve been in limbo for 14 years. I’ve been under so much stress. It’s like there’s a sword right over my head. This is psychological torture.”

Last year, Public Safety Canada, under Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day, ruled he was “inadmissible to Canada on security grounds” and denied him permanent residency in Canada.

The decision came despite earlier recommendations by  both Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service that Tameh be granted permanent resident status.

The agencies deemed that he was not a danger to Canadian society.

In 1979, when he was 19 years old, the Tehran-born Tameh became a supporter of Mujahedi-E-Khalq, which was at the time of Iran’s Revolution a legal, pro-democratic, non-violent political party.

His affiliation as a supporter condemned him to four years of imprisonment and torture, between 1982 and 1986.

In May 2005, the MEK was listed as a terrorist organization in Canada, 24 years after Tameh denounced the MEK and sought asylum here. “When the party started getting involved in violence, I cut my ties,” he said.

In May 1994, on the basis of interviews with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and CSIS, he was accepted as a convention refugee.

He immediately applied for status as a permanent resident.

Between January and March of 2008, 8,532 new refugees were referred to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board; 1,574 were accepted, 1,641 were rejected, with the remaining cases abandoned or withdrawn.

Tameh’s lawyer, Shane Molyneaux, refused to comment before Wednesday’s hearing.

But in a press release last weekend, he called on Day to answer to the discrepancies between the government bodies. Day could not be reached for comment Monday.

“Minister Day has unfairly denied Mr. Tameh permanent residence even though he represents no security threat, as noted by both CIC and CBSA.”

As a convention refugee without permanent residency status, Tameh can attend school, but he’s not permitted to acquire student loans.

Tameh must pay taxes, but he can’t vote, and he’s not permitted to travel outside Canada.

To work at his Main Street restaurant, Canteen Mitra on Main Street, he must apply for a work permit every year.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada representatives can’t release any information because of privacy regulations, according to representative Ben Letts.

According to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, a convention refugee is one who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

If his court hearing is successful Wednesday, Tameh said the first thing he’ll do is invite his aging parents.

“I want them to see the beautiful place where I live,” he said.


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